The Universal Language of Hospitality

I had actually planned to Blog something else today, however I thought I’d talk about this instead and reschedule the other one for another day.

For those who don’t know me personally my mum is in hospital, and during the time that she has been there we’ve met different people who have come onto and left the ward, people who she’s made friends with and exchanged contact numbers etc. I visited last night and in the bed next to her is now a Polish lady. She only knows a few words of English, however there has been a certain amount of relationship building between her and my mum. The Polish lady will offer mum sweets, chocolate etc by handing over the tub that they are in and apparently if mum tries to turn her down they are pushed towards her slightly more forcibly, to encourage her to accept. Last night we were offered a sweet in this fashion. She is obviously a very giving lady. Mum has managed to ask a relative for a few Polish words to show that she too is making an effort and the Polish lady will indicate to mum that she’d like to know the word for what is in the her sandwich etc so mum is able to tell her the word for prawn, for instance. There is a mutual hospitality going on between the two ladies who are unable to properly communicate through language.

If hospitality can break down barriers in language in this way then it surely is able to break down barriers in culture. This is why hospitality is one of the key things talked about in Fresh Expressions, but it is not just key to Fresh Expressions, surely it is key to the Christian life. The monastics understand this with their practice of radical hospitality. So it is key for  this reason as well as kindness and offering something of the self to others being central to the Christian life.

We all have our culture, which in many ways is a language as it affects how things are understood, it is visual, for instance in the way we look, and it affects our interpretation of things that are said. And whilst it is important that we look at ways to be like Paul and become like those we are dealing with as I spoke about in a previous post we are not going to completely rid ourselves of our culture. But through hospitality we can break down the barriers left by our culture as we interact with those around us and we will build relationships. But we should’t be paternal with this, we need to accept what is offered as well as giving what we are offering, because at that point we start to build authentic and equal relationship which are not about what we can do for those we are called to but about a mutual relationship through giving and receiving in the universal language of radical hospitality.


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